Fuel Costs Push Import Prices Up in February

U.S. import prices rose for the fifth consecutive month in February as political turmoil in the Middle East helped pushed oil prices higher, a U.S. Labor Department report showed Tuesday.

Import prices jumped 1.4 percent, significantly more than the consensus forecast of 0.9 percent in a Reuters poll of economists.

Fuel import prices accounted for most of the increase, rising 4.0 percent compared to non-fuel prices which rose 0.3 percent.

Export prices rose 1.2 percent, or almost double the consensus estimate of 0.7 percent, led by a 4.4 percent rise in agricultural export prices. Food, feed and beverage prices rose 2.8 percent.

Oil prices rose 3.7 percent in February and were 20.6 percent higher than in the same month last year. Political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa boosted prices on the back of improved U.S. and global economic growth.

The Federal Reserve's policy-setting panel is likely to nod to higher commodity prices in a statement after meeting on Tuesday but analysts expect officials will not see a grave enough threat to either growth or inflation to alter policy.

Prices for Brent crude dropped below $110 per barrel for the first time in three weeks on Tuesday as Japan's post-earthquake nuclear crisis weighed on markets. That was down from a 2-1/2-year high of $119.79 posted on Feb. 24.